As part of its program to establish a new medical school and its recently opened Institute for Personalized Medicine, Ariel University has now launched a Center for Drug Repurposing (CDR) in partnership with a private Israeli company, Drug Rediscovery Ltd. This is the world’s first academic center for drug repurposing.

Drug repurposing is the process of formalizing a new use for an existing drug, typically one that is already “generic” (without patent protection). It is the fastest growing segment in drug development, shortening the drug approval process by up to 15 years and reducing R&D costs by as much as 95%.

The CDR will incorporate a “Knowledge Center”, employing medical data-mining experts to populate a database known as Cureiosity®. This database builds connections between drugs, diseases and therapeutic targets in dimensions never applied before, and rapidly identifies new opportunities for drug repurposing.

At the core of its activities, the CDR will manage pre-clinical drug repurposing development work at Ariel University. Uniquely, most of the candidates to be studied will have already been tried in humans on a small scale, thus significantly increasing the chances for successful repurposing by reducing the risk of failure at the clinical trial phase.

A critical benefit of the CDR’s model is the rapid practical application it makes available for patients. Typically it takes 5 – 20 years to translate academic research into real-world benefits for patients. By focusing our research on therapies that already come with existing patient “proof of concept”, we can save years of development time in bringing these ideas to the marketplace. Our close collaboration with clinicians, and the Institute for Personalized Medicine headed by Dr. Igor Koman, means immediate realization of benefit for patients suffering from intractable diseases or deadly cancers.

Among the CDR’s main areas of clinical focus are childhood cancers, much neglected in drug development. Since this market is small and not sufficiently profitable, the pharmaceutical industry rarely invests in new drugs for pediatric cancers. CDR’s model incentivizes industry to bring repurposed drugs to the pediatric cancer marketplace by lowering risks and costs sufficiently to make it commercially rewarding.

Another clinical focus for the CDR is eye disorders. Funds are being raised to conduct research into a recent discovery of an anti-angina drug as a novel treatment for disfiguring benign eye growths known as pterygium (surfer’s eye) and pinguecula (affecting up to 25% of populations living close to the equator). This is the first non-surgical treatment proposed for this condition. Simultaneously, the CDR is developing the same repurposed drug to treat dry eye disease (a pandemic for which only one approved drug exists and works for less than 2 in 10 patients). The Center for Drug Repurposing’s rapid development plan can lead to products such as these obtaining marketing approval within 3 years, and putting Ariel University at the forefront of medical innovation.